Business forum focuses on communication, rejuvenation efforts for downtown areas
By Kim Walter -- firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- While Tuesday night's town-business forum started with a few small issues, it ended with a hope to focus on "the bigger picture."
Town Manager Steve Burke brought up several topics from a previous meeting with the group, including new signs to advertise shopping local, building a convention center, and the possibility of joining the Main Street Program, which is an effort to rejuvenate downtown areas.
Craig Laird, president of Royal Oak Computers, pointed out that a lot of money has gone into improving signs over the past 20 years, yet it continually gets reinvented.
"It's not enough of a well formed plan," he said. "We need to know what we want before we make any small decisions."
Other business owners agreed and voiced their concerns.
Herb Melrath, owner of The Daily Grind on Main Street, suggested that the town find some kind of facilitator to gather the ideas and opinions of local merchants and help them take baby steps to "reach a final goal." He and several others would also like to see someone be in charge of finding new businesses to that would fit in well and be an asset to the community.
Melrath added that Front Royal had applied to be a part of the Main Street Program in 2007, but was not ranked high enough on the list due to "lack of local government support."
It was agreed that instead of focusing all attention on the Main Street Program, it would instead become a subset for the main goal of creating a sustainable Front Royal.
While the downtown area of Front Royal has a lot to offer, Rick Novak, of Royal Cinemas and Royal Family Bowling Center, said that attention should be paid to all businesses in the town. He also brought up the town's efforts to receive some funding from Warren for Front Royal's the tourism department.
"Everything that happens in the town happens in the county," Novak said.
Mayor Timothy Darr said that communication between the town and county has been better than in the past, and promoting businesses and tourism will need to be a collaborative effort.
One way to help communication, Darr thinks, is to have a few representatives from the county come to the next forum, along with members of Downtown Front Royal, the Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Authority. From there, specific task forces would form to zero in on different parts of an overall plan.
"We've got to know where we're going before we get in the car," he said.